Samarpan Maiti (born on 26 September 1988) is a scientist, gay rights activist and winner of Mr. Gay India 2018 title and second runner-up for Mr. Gay World 2018 title. He now works as a model and as a research scholar at the Kolkata Institute of Chemical Biology.
Maiti’s journey through the Mr. Gay India & Mr. Gay World pageants has been covered in numerous interviews before, but I wanted to get a glimpse into his personal life. I wanted to get to know about his struggles, growing up gay in a conservative, rural background and also the childhood memories that he still cherishes.
I wasn’t like other kids and I wasn’t interested in playing games so my father engaged in a lot of other different activities. I used to read a lot, I liked gardening and listening to Indian classical music. We had a lot of pets, cats, dogs & rabbits.These are some of the childhood memories that I’m really fond of.
Struggle At School
There were times when I was scared to go to school. But because my father and my family, they were really concerned about my education, they supported me throughout and I didn’t have to worry. And I read somewhere that a lot of children drop out of schools because of bullying and all those things. And they don’t have that kind of family support. So, I think we need to educate our children to not hurt or make fun of others.
Realization About His Sexuality
I didn’t have any kind of education and there was no one to help me. And in my school days there was no internet and I was like ‘Whom should I ask?’. I couldn’t even ask my parents because in Indian culture you can’t discuss about all this. But I’m fortunate because my father was very open-minded and in my adolescent stage, he gave me books about sex education and all those things. But even in those books there was all straight stuff there was nothing related to homosexuality. So, I was not aware about the things and it never came to my mind that this could be a possibility. So, I just thought that it was a phase and that as I grow older it would be over.
Then I moved to a small town for my higher studies and I bought a phone and had access to Internet and I started searching and reading about all these things and that was when I realized. And then I was like “Oh My God! People are going to hate me”. Because already I was bullied a lot in my college because I was not very good at sports. All the hostel mates, they used to play cricket and football and I just used to watch them play. Or I used to go travelling, cycling or I would be listening to music. So, all of them were like “You’re like a girl, you can’t play. You can’t even throw a ball properly.” They always used to tell me “You’re a girl. You’re just like a girl.” So, I was scared about how people would react.
Later when my father passed away, one of my friends, his name is Debashish, was taking care of me like a guardian. He was even taking care of my food and all, he was like my family. So, people thought that we were in a gay relationship. And the hostel staff accused us and said that if you’re not in a relationship then you’re going to have to stop talking to each other or both of you will have to leave. That incident really shocked me, and I felt like I couldn’t expose myself to anyone, not even to Debashish. So, I kept pretending to be straight and I was acting in front of all my friends like “Look at that girl, she’s so sexy. I really like her”. I was continuously acting like that so as to fit in the society. Eventually, when I joined my research I thought that now I’ve got a platform and I need to think about myself and what I have to do.
What happened at that time was, a girl proposed to me. And now there are a lot of girls who keep proposing to me, but that one was very much serious. So, I told her about myself. And that was the first time I had ever disclosed it to anyone. And she said that she had already guessed that I might be gay and that she still loved me and wanted to marry me because she genuinely liked me as a person. She said that it didn’t matter to her and that my companionship was what mattered and that she really wanted to marry me. And then I was like “What should I do?”, because if I wanted to fit in the society, that was the best option for me. Also, I’m not cheating on her, I’ve been open, and I’ve told her everything about me and she’s still willing to accept me. But another part of me was like “Why should I do that? I need to live my own life.” I got tired of all the acting and felt like whatever happens, I need to live my own life. And after that I came out to Debashish. And this is funny because he too was like “Yeah, I think I already knew.” When I asked him how he knew, he told me that some of the guys that I was dating secretly, used to come to the hostel looking for me. He said that he never brought it up because he didn’t want to make me uncomfortable.
Relationship With His Father
I always used to tell Debashish that if my father was alive, he would have accepted me a long time back and I wouldn’t have had to suffer as much as I did. He was a person who was open-minded in every way, and even in my adolescent stage, he used to tell me that I should get married only if I want to get married and if I don’t want to get married then also it’s fine. I miss him a lot at every step of my life. I always felt that if he was here, things would have been very different. He was a feminist and even in my childhood, he used to tell me a lot about gender roles. He used to say that men and women are born with different sex organs, but it’s the society that forces them to live like a male or a female, but that shouldn’t happen. He said that we are all born equal and that each of us has a right to decide what to wear, what not to wear, how to live, how to play, etc. In our society, if it’s a girl, we give her a doll to play with and if it’s a boy, we give him a ball. We shouldn’t do that but we do.
Social Status & Being Openly Gay
The thing is that everyone has their own restrictions and limitations. Rich people only have the economic privilege, but it doesn’t mean that their family is going to be very open-minded and accepting. They also have to go through the struggle for acceptance. I have a friend whose father is a tailor and his mother is a maid but they accepted him gladly. They were like, “It’s your life, you get to decide how you want to live.” Then I also know a lot of people who are rich but because their families didn’t accept them, they had to marry a girl just to make them happy. So, it’s not like that.
The Ultimate Goal
Our aim isn’t just to get the rights because there is a law for everything. There is a really strong law against rapists, they get a life sentence. For every criminal offence, there is a law. But these things still happen, and they happen because of a lack of awareness or thought process. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have the law that says that we are no longer criminals, but what we need is to create is an environment in which everyone can live freely, however they want to live. For that we need a lot of awareness and education, we need to teach the society and reach out to a lot of people and break the taboo.
Earlier when women used to wear jeans, people used to stare at them, but now we are habitual to it because we’ve seen a lot of women wearing jeans and shorts. So now we know, now we don’t stare at them as if they’re aliens. Similarly, we need more gay people to come out and live their own life so that people get accustomed to it. We can change the society by coming out to a larger audience, or by marrying and living openly with our partners. We need to socialize more with people but for that, we need education first. And I think it will take a lot of years to get that kind of normalization.
Contribution Towards The Community
I had started working for the LGBTQ community many years before I participated in these competitions. I was doing a lot of research for my own interest. I was reading about people belonging to underprivileged communities, who are not educated or are economically backward, or who live in slums in urban or rural areas. I was studying their lifestyle and what they think about being gay, their health situation and if they use safe sex practices or not. I was collecting all that data and I was also trying to educate them and I was also conducting community building meetings between old age people. They are very lonely, so I was just trying to make some kind of bonding between them. They don’t have internet connections and they don’t have any apps, so I was just trying to involve them in some kind of community building so that they have someone with whom they can share their feelings. I’ve been doing that since 2016.
I wanted my experience to reach a bigger audience and I found that Mr. Gay World organization, they are not just a beauty pageant and that they are doing something very purposeful. There are a lot of points for social work also and a lot of importance is given to what you are doing for the community. I wanted to share my experience about those underprivileged communities because they are very much ignored. And we are less aware of their lives, how they live and how they feel and the miserable conditions in which they have to live. This was one of my aims for participating in the event. I also used to write stories in Bengali magazines about the LGBTQ lifestyle, how they feel and how they deal with the society. I was conveying all this through stories and poems because if you convey something using a story, it becomes more comprehensible for people. I was also modelling for LGBTQ events.
So, I was doing a lot of community work before participating, and even if I had not participated in Mr. Gay India and even if I had not won the title, I would still have continued with my work.
Life After Mr. Gay World 2018
I’m still very much connected to my roots. And I’m saying this frankly, in India, many activists who have been working at the grass-root level for a long time say that “What’s the importance of such a pageant in perceptible activism?” or “How could this elitism, and this beauty pageant change the society and what is the need of this kind of thing?”. But what I feel is that pageants like this have a huge impact on the society. For example, now that I’ve won the title, and I’ve been covered by all the local newspapers and TV channels, wherever my mom goes in the village, people tell her that she’s really a proud mother and that they’re really happy for her son. They know what I’m doing.
People saw my pictures in the newspaper and asked my mother why I visited South Africa. This is how they’re learning about the issue. Whenever I visit, people tell me that they saw my program on the TV and they’re happy for me and proud of me. This kind of change is happening and till now I’m very much connected to my roots and I want to do some work in the village also. Maybe some awareness camp, at least for the children of the allies, so that they can teach their children about all these things.
Challenges At Workplace
I’ve submitted my thesis, it’s about brain cancer drug discovery and also on drug repositioning. Drug repositioning means that the drugs which are already existing and used for treating other kind of diseases, I’m trying to see if they have any effect on cancer or if any combination of those drugs can be applicable in cancer. That could be very cheap for the cancer patients if they could use easily available drugs.
I’ve submitted my thesis but I’m facing some issues, in the sense that, even in the scientist community, people are supporting me telling me that I’ve done a great job but whenever I’m trying to join in their labs, they are not ready to accept me. It’s just that, there are a lot of allies who say that they support LGBTQ rights, but they are like “We are okay with others but our son or our daughter should not be like that.” I wanted to be in India for at least one more year because whatever work I had started doing for the LGBTQ community, I wanted to continue it and for that, I really needed to stay in India. And I can’t say that all the scientists are like that, but whoever I have applied to till now, they are not ready to accept me. They tell me that I have a very impressive CV and that I could easily go abroad if I tried, or they tell me that they are willing to accept me but that their students won’t feel very comfortable around me.
India proudly calls itself the largest democracy in the world and we dream about becoming the global superpower in the near future. Economically and technologically we’re growing in leaps and bounds. But where do we stand when it comes to social equality? People belonging to the LGBTQ community have to live in hiding lest they suffer oppression by the entire society.
Article 377, an obsolete law dating back to the colonial period, criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature”. Is it criminal to love who you love? Is it unnatural to live your truth and not fit the molds that the society has carved out for everyone? These questions may make us feel uncomfortable, but deep down we all know what the answer is. And it’s about time we said it out loud.
We wish Samarpan Maiti all the best for all his endeavors, be it his research work, his modelling career or his fight for equal rights. We need more courageous people like him, who decide to live their truth in the face of all adversities. We also wish a very happy married life to Debashish who is married to Samarpan’s sister.